In part I of this series of the history of roofing we discussed the early developments of roofing, as well as the materials that were traditionally used. In part II, we focused primarily on early-American building design and how it proliferated through the 19th century. Today’s post focuses on the history of roofing in the 20th century, up to today. In particular, we will be looking at the increase in roof durability, as well as how developments are related to the way that people’s visions of the future have changed over the century.

Here at Tim Leeper Roofing in Nashville, we are proud to be part of the long tradition of roof building in America. We are capable of building your roof with whatever material and in whichever style you choose. Want to learn more about our residential roof replacement services? Reach out to us today to learn more!


We will focus on some specific trends that occurred in the 20th century, focusing on the concrete particulars as a way to get at the abstract universals. To begin, let’s start with a few specific developments:

  • Modern shingles originated in the 1840s from the first composite roof materials (as opposed to using just one substance). The earliest composite roofs were made of a combination of materials such as felt, woven fabrics, pine tar, and sand.
  • In the 1920s, it became very common to combine asbestos with fiber cement to make an extremely durable type of shingle. This would later be replaced when asbestos bans and lawsuits gained traction, between 1970 and 1990, in particular.
  • Large steel roofing panels were commonly used for agricultural and industrial buildings in the 1930s. Corrugated panels with a galvanized coating promised a longevity that makes this type of industrial building still popular to this day.
  • In the early 20th century, metal roof tiles made of stamped sheets made to look like clay tiles were very popular. Even to this day, metal roof tiles are a common sight due to their reliability and longevity

    Cedar shingles were replaced as the most popular roofing material by asphalt shingles. Today, traditional shingle typology is going through a revival, with more houses choosing materials like cedar for unique roofing and siding.


Modern roofing has come a long way. The mass-produced roofs of the 1950s through the rise of greater choice and stronger roofs, even since 20 years ago, shows a promising future for residential and commercial roof building. Today’s roofing materials and designs are able to combine the elements of what has worked in centuries past and draw from a wide pool of different styles and technologies to deliver an extremely durable, reliable roofing solution for the general public. Of course, roofing remains strongly influenced by the local availability of materials, climate, and cultural preferences, but buyers have never had as many choices for what to do with their roof as they do today. The trend towards the use of materials such as copper and zinc, in particular, due to their durability and high energy-efficiency, can be expected to continue to grow in the 21st century.

This history of roofing is not over — exciting new developments continue to occur. We can’t predict the future, but the trends in roofing are looking bright, with higher quality roofing solutions becoming increasingly affordable. Tim Leeper Roofing in Nashville is proud to be part of this long tradition, and we continue to work hard to push the limits of quality and affordability for both commercial and residential roofing. So if you live in or around Nashville, or you have a business in the region in need of roof repairs or replacement, contact Tim Leeper Roofing and get the quality of roof you are looking for. We look forward to speaking with you soon!